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The Story of Broke 2011

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In season one of The Story of Stuff We looked at a system that creates way too much stuff And way too little of what we really want Now we're going to start looking at the stories behind the story of stuff That's where we'll find ways to turn the situation around Welcome to Season 2 These last few years I had to get a lot more careful at how I spend my paycheck Everyone has Like eating out less often, holding back on expenses I don't really need and saving for my kids' college I'm getting more responsible and taking control of how I spend But one thing I can't control is that every month a big chunk of my paycheck goes off to our government It's not the most fun part of my budget but I believe in paying taxes Not just because it's the law but because it's how I invest in the better future that I can't afford to build on my own You know, that future that we all want and that nearly every candidate promises us: great schools, an healthy environment, clean energy, good jobs But a funny thing happens to our money on its way to that better future It seems to disappear! And by the time that we get around to investing in that future all I hear is "Sorry, not this year- we're broke!" In fact we're so broke- they say- that we have no choice but to slide backwards, cutting things that made this country great like schools and the EPA, maybe even Social Security and Medicare Wait a minute. Broke? I'm sending in my fair share of hard-earned cash every month and so are you If everyone did, we'd have plenty of money Now what we have to work with shrinks a lot thanks to corporate tax loopholes and unprecedented tax breaks for the richest 1% But even after those we still got over a trillion dollars So if we're broke what's happening to all that money? I decided to look into it and it turns out that this whole broke story hides a much bigger story A story of some really dumb choices being made for us choices that actually work against us The good news is that these are choices and we can make different ones So where is all that money going? Well, first the military takes the biggest chunk 726 billion dollars in 2011 Wow we could a lot better future with that kind of money Spending billions on fighter planes we don't need or wars with no end and then saying we're broke just isn't honest It's like callling your kid from your billion dollar yacht to tell her you can't afford her school lunch money Then hundreds of billions more go to propping up the dinossaur economy You know, the obsolete system we talked about in The Story of Stuff? The one that produces more pollution, greenhouse gases and garbage than any other on earth and that doesn't even make us happy In so many ways it's just not working But we're keeping it on life support instead of building something better A lot of that life support comes in the form of subsidies A subsidy is a giveway that gives some companies a lift over others Thats not necessarily a bad thing We should help companies that are building a better future The problem is our government keeps lifting up companies that are actually dragging us down Everywhere you look along the dinosaur economy you'll find these subsidies! They're spending subsidies, where the government just gives our money away like payments that benefit big agribusiness while helping drive family farms off a cliff Or the less obvious version, where the government foots the bill for things that corporations should pay for themselves like cleaning up toxic chemicals spills or giant livestock manure ponds Or building roads that only go to one place, like a new Wal-Mart Or paying for polluting and wasteful garbage incinerators that would never make finantial sense to build on their own Then there's Tax Subsidies which excuse big companies from contributing their fair share like the enormous tax breaks granted to oil and gas companies even in times of record profits! These subsidies amount to billions we should be collecting and putting to good use And there's Risk Transfer Subsidies where our government acts as an investment bank or an insurance company for corporations doing risky things like building nuclear reactors if anything goes wrong WE have to cover for them There's Freebie Subsidies where our government gives stuff that belongs to all of us to corporations for cheap or even for free That's billions more that we should be collecting but never see Like permits to mine public lands granted at prices set in the General Mining Act of 1872 Really. 1872. President Grant signed this law to encourage the settlement of the West. News flash: It's settled. And all of this doesn't even count externalized costs They don't show up on any spreadsheet and could amount to trillions of dollars, including all of the damage to the environment, public health and the climate that this dinosaur economy causes Without laws that make these polluters pay we all pay with the loss of clean air and water or increased ashtma and cancer By the time we've handed out all these subsidies there isn't enough money to pay our bills, and forget about building a better future So why is there always enough money for the dinosaur economy, from Big Oil to bail outs for Big Banks But when it comes to building a better future we're supposidly broke Maybe it's because these guys know how to ask for it Their lobbyists and giant campaign contributions let our government know what they want and wht they will do if they don't get it And it works, US senators who voted to keep big oil subsidies in 2011 have received 5 times more in Big Oil campaign cash than those who voted to end them So, while subsidies should be a tool to help companies that are helping us all they become a prize for those with the most power to get on the handout list But do you know who has the real power? We do! What if we got as protective of our tax dollars as we are with the rest of our money? What if we told the government what we want and what we'll do if we don't get it Starting with voting them out We could redirect these dinosaur subsidies freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars Forget broke, we could start a better future right now! We could begin by reinvesting the 10 billion dollars that we spend on oil and gas subsidies into renewable energy and energy efficiency projects With just half of that amount we could provide solar energy to about 2 millions households Then use the rest to retrofit half a million homes, creating jobs and saving energy year after year The average cost of cleaning up a toxic Superfund site is about 140 million dollars Let's make the polluters pay and instead invest our money into developing safer materials so we don't have to worry about spills in the first place Most chemicals today are made from oil that's why they're called Petrochemicals Switching just 20% of them to safer bio-based materials would create over a 100 thousand new jobs And instead of subsidizing garbage incinerators let's subsidize real solutions like Zero Waste Raising the US recycling rate to 75% would result in 1.5 million new jobs With less pollution, less waste and less pressure to harvest and mine new stuff What's not to like? That would still leave billions of dollars for improving education the best investment for an healthy economy With a 100 billion dollars we could increase the number of elementary school teachers by over 40% and give college scholarships to over 6 million students See? We can rebuild the american dream We can afford to have an healthy environment good jobs and top-notch public education But NOT if we keep subsidizing the dinosaur economy So the next time you have an idea for a better future and someone tells you "That's nice, but there's no money for that" You tell them we are not broke There IS money, it's ours and it's time to invest it right

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 7 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: The Story os Stuff
Director: Annie Leonard
Views: 249
Posted by: nuno oliveira on Nov 8, 2011

Please visit Storyofstuff.org
The United States isn't broke; we're the richest country on the planet and a country in which the richest among us are doing exceptionally well. But the truth is, our economy is broken, producing more pollution, greenhouse gasses and garbage than any other country. In these and so many other ways, it just isn't working. But rather than invest in something better, we continue to keep this 'dinosaur economy' on life support with hundreds of billions of dollars of our tax money. The Story of Broke calls for a shift in government spending toward investments in clean, green solutions—renewable energy, safer chemicals and materials, zero waste and more—that can deliver jobs AND a healthier environment.

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